Baloney Proofing

BaloneyButtonSo, another year has gone by and since then I did a refresh on the “Baloney Detection Guide” I created as an attempt to advocate critical thinking. Particularly in this case, to a niched population of people who share a common interest of “vegan”. This is a post-mortem on round two of my efforts so perhaps others might glean something if not from our success but from our failure.

The Baloney Detection Guide flier we found to be a bit unwieldy and expensive. It cost $1.60 a piece just in printing costs alone. As SkepticalVegan said, “fuck, i might as well pass out dollar bills with “be skeptical” scrawled across em.” Fair enough. So I got my designer on the horn and challenged him to squeeze the original down to be print-on-demand friendly to post publicly for sale on Zazzle down to 35¢. Now anybody could order a bunch at a more reasonable cost and even customize them with their contact info or whatever on it.

This would come in handy for a local fall vegan fest approaching. But last year we had to do a lot of pitching to encourage people to take one. I decided to bundle it up into a more enticing package which I dubbed the “Vegan Chicago Quick-Start Kit.” The point was to include all the bits of information and tips I wish I had when I first went vegan but also baloney proof them if possible.

Actually this didn’t start as a “kit”. At first, the idea was to make a small pocket-sized “zine” full of all sorts of basic information any person going vegan would need including a baloney detection guide folded in. But getting all the info into it proved to be too challenging. I decided to just print the pieces separately and stuff them into a modest manilla envelope adorned with printed label dubbing it a “kit.” It sounded practical yet fun and I liked the rhythm and alliteration of “quick start kit”. This is what went in:

  • Quick-Start Guide Manual: This brief booklet explained the contents and had a few quick tips.
  • Baloney Detection Guide: The abridged remake from last year.
  • Baloney Proofing: If the Baloney Detection Guide wasn’t challenging enough I created this piece with “Red Flags” for common words associated with fallacies and “Twisted Topics” for misinformed issues.
  • Magnifying Glass: I wanted a cute “toy inside” and this cheap plastic magnifying glass alluded to skeptical inquiry but also had a practical interactive component which helped discern the tiny print on the “Twisted Topics” page.
  • Nutrition Food Guide: We were fortunate enough to host Virgina Messina, RD at our Vegan Chicago table this year and she generously offered us her brief “food guide” for reprint.
  • Restaurant Guide & Restaurant Card: From my leafletting days I’ve learned that people loved curated restaurant guides and stuffing one inside a pamphlet ensured a better acceptance rate.
  • Coming events: This had a list of upcoming Vegan Chicago events including our upcoming vaccine talk. We hosted an animal masquerade party later that night, the invite was on the reverse.
  • Vegan Chicago button: and of course we always give these out cuz, who don’t like buttons?

We stuffed two hundred of these and gave them away free of charge. They went like hotcakes and were gone in two hours. The rest of the time we put out the extra literature separately for people to pick. Most people, even if they hovered over the baloney stuff, left it. Unfortunately for the people who did take the baloney info they didn’t have an easy way to contact us. The feedback address I put on the Baloney Detection Guide got cropped off in the final print and I neglected to put it anywhere else. It’s not impossible to find us though.

For the most part the people who DID comment on the baloney stuff were people-in-the-know. Science champs who also were vegan. In a sense, that jives with our Vegan Chicago mission as a social group to draw together like-minded people. This wasn’t the intention though and would have been overkill if so. Other than that I have yet to hear a single anecdote where this clicked with somebody who actually needed it.

I’m not a professional educator nor am I an expert on this subject, so that’s another variable. I might be overreaching with this approach. Is critical thinking something that can be effectively advocated in such a way anyway? This brute-force attempt was fun and all but I’ll need to take a break from banging my head on this wall and maybe try something smarter next time.

3 comments to Baloney Proofing

  • Sarah S.

    I was just wondering, as it seems nobody can truly be a vegan in the purest sense of the term, whether you think it would be more rational to tell people that I strive to eat only vegan foods and consume only vegan goods… essentially avoiding defining myself as vegan but using the term liberally to describe things I prefer to use (or will only use)? Kind of how it might be PC to call a rug Oriental but not PC to call a person Oriental. I think the only risk is it “allows” me to eat milk chocolate, for example, without feeling I’ve lapsed in any way. Ultimately, I ate that darn chocolate bunny whether I feel I’ve failed somehow or not, so… just wanted your two cents.

  • Sarah, that’s a good question, one I’ve pondered for a while. I pretty much do what you describe. I don’t identify myself as “a vegan” but I strive to purchase vegan goods as much as possible. I still question the real value of that even but oh well, habits. I think the nuance of noun vs adjective is lost on most people, even the vegan ones. 🙂

    I think not feeling guilty for eating milk chocolate is a good thing IMHO. But yeah, the value in calling yourself “a vegan” might be to keep you from transgressing.

    • David

      While I don’t live a completely animal product free life (especially when it comes to some pseudo-medical items that I cannot find good animal-free equivalents for me) I do give myself the label of vegan. This is both for ease of letting people know what I cannot and choose not to eat and use and also as a way for people to ask me why. After I learned to stop being so damned combative years ago this had led to a few friends starting to think about what they eat & products they use and why.

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